Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 May 2010
As a climate negotiator in the early 1990s I have a strong recollection of the impact of Professor Bolin's statements to the International Negotiating Committee for the Framework Convention on Climate Change. When the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its findings there was silence in the room: here were the facts, the certainties and the uncertainties.
We were all part of a process in which national interests and national instructions governed our actions and limited the rate of progress. We were all painfully aware of this, and we were also on a learning curve. As diplomats and generalists, most of us had limited knowledge of the substantial issues of climate change, but here we had the opportunity to listen to one of the most prestigious experts, speaking in clear language, devoid of academic jargon. Furthermore, we realised that Bert Bolin, as a former scientific adviser in the Swedish Prime Minister's office, had a thorough knowledge of the political process, its possibilities and limitations.
All this enabled him to set high standards for the work of the IPCC from the beginning, creating a scientific backstop to the negotiations which in my view has had a decisive impact on the relative success of the process. The IPCC is not only a venue for interdisciplinary science, it is also a meeting-place for researchers and Government officials, thereby facilitating the inevitable process of multilateral bargaining on the terms of legally binding international instruments.